By Mario Casayuran
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) secretary-designate Rafael Vitriolo Mariano said yesterday he is at peace with himself and is confident to face members of the powerful 25-member Commission on Appointments (CA) who may confirm or reject his appointment as the implementor of the government’s agrarian reform program.
Mariano was interviewed by Senate reporters after the CA agrarian reform committee chaired by Senate Majority Leader Vicente C. Sotto III deferred its public hearing for lack of time to determine his fitness to be a member of the Duterte Cabinet.
Mariano categorically stated that he never was a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front/New People’s Army (NPA). Mariano also said that he was never engaged in a leftist underground activity.
Mariano stressed that he is the President’s alter ego and that he has resigned as chairman of the Kilusan Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), a legal peasant organization, to fend off any allegation of conflict of interest.
In yesterday’s public hearing by Sotto, there were 10 persons or groups that opposed Mariano’s confirmation as DAR chief while 19 endorsed his confirmation.
One of the oppositors, Maria Teresa Gallego of the Gallego Estate in Nampicuan, Nueva Ecija, claimed that about 250 men armed with bolos and machetes illegally entered their 55-hectare cattle ranch and attempted to take over their land last October 1, 2016.
The intruders, Ms Gallego said, belonged to three groups that are affiliated with KMP where the national chairman is Mariano. “There was a breakdown of law and order,’’ she added.
Ms Gallego said the original Gallego Estate consisted of more than 600 hectares but this was substantially reduced and they have not yet been completely paid by DAR.
Mariano maintained that he only learned of the incident two weeks later. He said DAR probers were barred from entering the Estate and from investigating the alleged trespass of the 300 armed men.
He emphasized that the DAR is open to dialogue and consultation as he declared the DAR has adopted an open door policy.
Mariano assured detractors of the DAR that it is fair in handling the interests of both landowners and agrarian reform beneficiaries.
He stressed the mandate of the DAR which is to abolish feudalism and that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) is an instrument of social justice. “DAR respects the law,” he added.
Mariano also told CA members that he was a part of the Mendiola demonstration against injustices against farmers and peasants during the CoryAquino administration.